Boreal Chickadee

The Boreal Chickadee is well known for its ability to inhabit near humans. These birds are generally more approachable than most other birds. These tame birds are well-loved and have gained a number of local names throughout the years. These include Chick Chick Tom-tit and Fillady. In the past, these birds were also addressed as Acadian Chickadees, Hudsonian Chickadees, and Brown-capped Chickadees.

About Boreal Chickadees

Not many other passerines have such a restricted range such as Boreal Chickadees. You can mostly find these birds in the boreal forests in Canada and around the U.S. You can find species such as Ruby-crowned and Golden-crowned Kinglets in the coniferous habitats they like. Just like almost all other Chickadees, Boreal Chickadees are very
territorial during the breeding season, but are sighted in mixed flocks through the rest of the year.

On close observation, some behaviors of Boreal Chickadees are present due to the harsh living conditions in their environment. Bird species are not strangers to the harmful environmental changes in today’s time, so in time they all attempt to adapt to their surroundings and the changes made to them. The reproductive behavior, food storage
mechanisms and aggressive tendencies of Boreal Chickadees can all be accounted to detrimental and destructive changes in their habitat.

On the basis of a number of credible and insightful studies, it is clear that Gray-headed Chickadees are the closest relatives of Boreal Chickadees. This species also commonly resides in boreal forests. They are also very close relatives of Chestnut-backed Chickadees, although the preferred habitat for Chestnut-backed Chickadees is coniferous forests. All these Chickadees lack a whistling song that is prevalent amongst most other Chickadee species in North America. Mexican Chickadees also display molecular similarities to all these species of Chickadees.

Other vocalizations of Boreal Chickadees are also different from the vocalizations of most North American Chickadees. Boreal Chickadees have not been completely studies, there is a lack of information about their flocking and winter feeding. Although much attention is given to their vocalizations and songs, further studies might offer us further insight into how they use these sounds.

● Boreal Chickadees Photos, Color Pattern, Song
● Boreal Chickadees Size, Eating behavior, Habitat
● Boreal Chickadees Range and Migration, Nesting


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Boreal Chickadees Color Pattern

Nestlings of Boreal Chickadees are born with some wisps of down. Juveniles gain their plumage feathers before they leave their nests. The plumage feathers on the tails and wings of these younglings are not completely formed until they get a little older.

As observed in almost all other bird species, juveniles look similar to adults, but their plumage isn’t as vibrant. The juveniles also have softer feathers. As soon as the juveniles molt, their plumage becomes extremely difficult to distinguish from the plumage of the adults.

Fully grown adult Boreal Chickadees have soft brown napes and crowns that are tinged gray. This grayish tinge extends down from the sides of the head to the eyes. In this facial region, the plumage becomes darker. Their throat and chin are black, the sides of their neck are gray, and their breast and abdomen are white. The sides of their body and their flanks are light brown. A white stripe emerges from below their eye and broadens towards their ear.

Boreal Chickadees don’t look much different during winters. Except for the wear and tear in their feathers, you can’t find many other differences. These birds lose the softness of their plumage as the breeding season comes to an end. To determine the age of Boreal Chickadees, their retrices need to be studied.

Description and Identification

Boreal Chickadees are one of four bird species that have a brown cap instead of a black one. These birds are not very easy to find for bird watchers as they are found in boreal habitats. Their sedentary lifestyle also makes it harder to sight these birds. Bird watchers will perhaps have their best shot at sighting these birds if they travel to the boreal forests of Alaska or Canada.

If you spot songbirds such as Kinglets outside of the breeding season, there are high chances that Boreal Chickadees are present in the surrounding. Boreal Chickadees and Tits species of birds have evolved in Eurasia. It is assumed that the ancestors of Boreal Chickadees came from Russia to North America, similar to the first humans who arrived in America.

Both sexes of Boreal Chickadees look similar to each other. These birds have brown irides, and their legs and feet are bluish-gray. Adult Boreal Chickadees have black bills. These songbirds make a number of vocalizations throughout the year. Thirteen calls or sequences of calls have been recorded in this species. It is not easy to be precise
about these numbers due to various challenges. One of these challenges is the differences of terminology in researched and published works about these birds. Although stark differences are apparent in the songs of Boreal Chickadees and other Chickadee species, the rest of their vocal repertoire is quite similar.

Boreal Chickadee Song

Boreal Chickadees have a subsong that is similar in context to the song of younglings of Black-capped Chickadees. This subsong is warble of low amplitude. This covers a wide range of frequencies. This warble actually follows quite a complex structure. This subsong uses a number of their calls such as gargles, seeps, and the characteristic Chick-a-dee call. There are six vocalizations within this subsong. The notes and length of these vocalizations can significantly differ.

It seems that the Chick-a-dee call is a modification of the begging calls made by juvenile Boreal Chickadees. At the end of most vocalizations, you can hear a dee sound. Both males and females Chickadees make calls in various contexts. Except for the dee, the other portion of the song can highly vary depending on the context. Seep and chit calls are often at the beginning of the call.

As we discussed before, Boreal Chickadees have calls that slightly vary from the calls of other Black-capped Chickadees. This is due to the manner in which Boreal Chickadees combine several notes.

You can hear three gargle calls in Boreal Chickadees. It consists of Trilled calls, musical calls, and rapid musical calls. Trills are quite common in these calls. These calls are quite similar to each other. The manner of vocalizing these calls can differ amongst individuals.

Reputed ornithologists, Allen and Townsends have reported gargles as the song of Boreal Chickadees. The subsong also incorporates elements of gargles in it. Although you can often hear gargles in aggressive encounters, they are not as common in claiming territory. You can’t usually hear gargles in female Boreal Chickadees.

These birds make soft chirps when other birds come up to them. This call doesn’t cover a wide frequency, and when vocalized, the approaching bird leaves. Broken Dee is a two-syllable begging call made by these birds. This call is the most intense between the frequency of 4-5.5 kHz. Only female Boreal Chickadees make this call.

Boreal Chickadees Size

Boreal Chickadees are small songbirds that are part of the tit family. They are 5-5.5 inches long and have a wingspan of 8.25 inches. On average, these birds weigh about 0.35 ounces. They have a long tail, short wings, and a short bill.

Boreal Chickadees Behavior

Boreal Chickadees are foliage gleaners that hop on the ground. They hop around on tree branches, using wing movements as an aid if they can’t reach their destination by hopping. While flying, they mostly stick to a straight path.

Females Boreal Chickadees roost in the nest while the first egg is being laid. You can also observe them sunbathing. These birds don’t usually engage in overly aggressive behavior. Even if they are displaying territorial aggression they don’t usually use physical interactions.

Boreal Chickadees perform appeasement displays before mating. These displays are the most common in females before copulation. This display can be seen as an invitation for the male.

As these birds do not advertise their territories, you can often find them trespassing. Trespassers can go unnoticed for long periods of time. Once they spot trespassers, they use gargle calls to drive them away. Territorial encounters don’t last for more than 15 minutes. A hierarchy of dominance must be present in mixed flocks, but there isn’t enough
information about the same.

Although Boreal Chickadees are commonly seen in mixed flocks outside of the breeding season, solitary individuals are also just as regular.

What Boreal Chickadees Eat

Boreal Chickadees are songbirds that mostly consume insects and seeds. Eggs and larvae are also part of their diet. The animal matter consumed by them mostly forages on the middle and the high portions of the forest canopy, and the plant matter is obtained from the ground. They mostly perch on older trees. Trees such as spruces can help them in feeding as they can take support from the cones while reaching for insects and seeds.

Boreal Chickadees Habitat

Boreal Chickadees are permanent residents of boreal forests along with Chestnut-backed Chickadees, and Holarctic Gray-headed Chickadees. These birds are common in both mature and young coniferous forests. Balsam firs and
spruces are common nesting trees for them. In most regions they inhabit, they reside in higher elevations than other Chickadee species. The overwintering habitats of these birds are not very common from their breeding habitats.

Range and Migration

The breeding range of these birds extends southwards from Canada and Alaska towards southern Canada and a few U.S. states located in the northernmost portion.

Although most Boreal Chickadees are permanent residents of their range, some do migrate. The migratory birds only travel short distances. Sometimes these birds irrupt southwards from their breeding range. These irruptions can occur during any season. These irruptions attribute to food shortages.

Boreal Chickadee Lifecycle

Boreal Chickadees form pairs of bonds when in winter. By late April, most flocks disperse from their winter habitats.

Strangely, Boreal Chickadees can start the egg-laying process even before their nest is complete. There is no evidence supporting that these birds raise more than one brood. Their clutches can have up to 4-9 eggs that incubate for about 13 days. Both members of the pair care for the younglings for the first 2 weeks. Younglings take 18 days to fledge.


The Boreal Chickadee creates their nests in cavities of dead trees. The list of these trees includes yellow birches, balsam poplars, trembling aspens, willows, alders, white spruces, white pines, and black spruces. The nests constructed by these birds are between 1-35 feet above the ground. The nests have side entrances, as well as top entrance holes.

Upon excavating the nesting site, the females line the nest cavity with soft materials found in the vicinity. The size of the nest is determined by the size of the cavity. Fur, feathers, bark, hair, lichen, and plant down are the materials used to construct the nest.

Anatomy of a Boreal Chickadee

Boreal Chickadees are round and stocky birds. They have short tails, long wings, and short and leans bills.

Final Thoughts

The Boreal Chickadee is a tiny and beautiful songbirds that have a number of unique characteristics. These are the only Chickadees that have top entrances to their nests and they are also one of the only species in their family that are permanent residents of boreal forests.

As these birds are particularly difficult to spot because of their restricted range, they will be a special treat for keen birdwatchers.


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Bird Watching Binoculars for Identifying Boreal Chickadees

The most common types of bird watching binoculars for viewing Boreal Chickadees are 8×21 binoculars and 10×42 binoculars. Bird Watching Academy & Camp sells really nice 8×21 binoculars and 10×42 binoculars. You can view and purchase them here.

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Boreal Chickadee Stickers

Stickers are a great way for you to display your love for bird watching and the Boreal Chickadee. We sell a monthly subscription sticker pack. The sticker packs have 12 bird stickers. These sticker packs will help your kids learn new birds every month.

Bird Feeders For Boreal Chickadees

There are many types of bird feeders. Here are our favorite bird feeders for your backyard. We use all of these bird feeders currently. Kids will have a great time watching birds eat at these bird feeders. Using this collection of bird feeders will provide a wide variety and many types of birds.

Best Bird Houses for Boreal Chickadees

There are many types of bird houses. Building a bird house is always fun but can be frustrating. Getting a bird house for kids to watch birds grow is always fun. If you spend a little extra money on bird houses, it will be well worth every penny and they’ll look great.

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